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Monday, 11 August 2014

James May's Cars of the People was great motoring TV

IT WAS somewhere in the North Sea where I discovered one of motoring telly’s genuine surprises last night.

Chances are that if I hadn’t have been stuck on a ferry tossing and turning through the waves on my way back from a trip to Holland and Germany, I wouldn’t have flicked on the TV and started watching James May’s newly-launched BBC series about people’s cars. If you haven’t already seen it and fancy tracking it down on iPlayer, it’s called – in a magnificent display of Beeb imagination – James May’s Cars of the People.

Yet despite the unremarkable name, Captain Slow had me hooked; here, after what seems like months of false starts, was a spot of automotive telly I found myself genuinely enjoying. I’m sure not the only car nut who finds his other pet project – an occasional motoring show called Top Gear – has brilliant and tiresomely slapstick moments in roughly equal measure, but almost all of the other shows aimed at us petrolhead types have proven tricky viewing. 

I get the impression that in a glass-sided building somewhere in Canary Wharf a boardroom’s worth of overpaid telly executives have cottoned onto the fact that classic cars are hot property, and between them opened the floodgates for a whole of slew of motoring TV shows over the past few months. We had Philip Glenister do a great job with For The Love Of Cars, but I couldn’t help wincing when an old Series One Land Rover was restored to such an eat-your-dinner-off-it level of cleanliness that it’ll never see a farm track again, and then auctioned for an eye watering £41,000. We’ve also had AC/DC rocker Brian Johnson pontificating about his favourite supercars in Cars That Rock, but the worst television call by far was whichever idiot gave Classic Car Rescue a second series. 

That’s why, after a bellyful of obviously scripted motoring mishaps and shows which give off the impression all old cars are handcrafted from unobtainium, it was so refreshing to see James May talking sensibly about the cars your mum and dad used to drive. I switched off at the end of the show having learned some genuine nuggets of pub fact gold about the Fiat 124, and been reminded why the Trabant was so bad that thousands of East Germans happily headed straight towards a crooning David Hasselhoff in a simultaneous lunge for motoring freedom. In fact, the only letdown was resorting to some cheap Top Gear laughs by dropping a Lada from a helicopter for laughs, but James May’s Cars of the People had me hooked
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Even though I’m firmly back on terra firma now, I’ll definitely be tuning in this Sunday for the next episode.

1 comment:

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